Caribbean Islands are places lavishly colourful. During the day the sunlight that blesses this piece of the world highlights the bright colour paint of the houses climbing on the verdant hillsides. At dusk mother nature gives its very best. Among creamy clouds the sky goes from honey to blood orange and carmine before cooling down into a gloomy deep purple, while the sea reflects and fragments all these colours in an infinite variation of shades. What a luxury for the eyes is to live in Sint Maarten! And I did not even mention all the shocking bold colours of the all year round women summer outfits: fuchsia, coral, salmon, neon yellow, lime, cobalt, and of course the inevitable Caribbean blue.
I choose my words for colours trying to let you picture those exact shades and offer you an impression of the Caribbean for which to say yellow, red, blue, pink, green is simply not enough. But then I think you might be one of ‘those man’ and you probably have no idea of what I’m talking about. If at honey and blood orange you were still feeling certain, by carmine you stumble in a hole of confusion. Who is now Carmine? You might have thought.
Nothing personal. Just a little reflection after years and years of gathering proof that lead me to believe that most men have a very limited knowledge of color shades. Amongst all the shades that men fail to name, the shades of pink are by far the most ignored. The color carmine over which I joked about above might not be for everyone to know, women included. But the color fuchsia (or magenta) is a shade that only men refuse to acknowledge. So let’s focus on it.
Where does this impairment come from? And why does it seem to affect only guys? Was there a color trauma in their childhood? Or is it that their mind is ‘color(name)blind’?
Neuroscientists tell us that men ‘appear more sensitive to objects moving across their field of vision’ while women ‘proved slightly better at discriminating among subtle gradations in the middle of the color spectrum, where yellow and green reside’. Moreover, ‘an object that women experience as orange will look slightly more yellowish to men, while green will look more blue-green’. (smithsonianmag.com)
Ok, we might see color differently. However, this ‘slight’ difference in distinguishing between yellow and green, does not account, by all means, for the incapability of remembering the name of the color fuchsia, for example. I also don’t bite the assumption for which women are better in recognising shades because somewhere in our ancestral life we had to learn to spot exact colours when looking for edible plants while men had to focus on moving prey for a successful hunting session (smithsonianmag.com). Besides, here the problem is not what men see, but rather how they choose to call it (or rather not call it).
Why men seem to refuse to learn color shades? I believe this is a question of gender, intended as a social and cultural construct.
In Western cultures, pink is famously the color for girls. We are born with a pink bow, and we are most likely to wear clothes in the shades of pink while we learn their names. Later on, when we might actually discover that we don’t like pink, this color sticks to us like a label that we cannot shake off: ‘girly girl’.
Contrary to pink, blue, which is the color of baby boys, does not carry the label for ‘boyish boy’. Girls, indeed, can wear blue without being boyish, and even when they do – like for the Tomboy fashion – this is not perceived as negative. Think, for example, of how many girls pride themselves of having been more boylike during their childhood. On the other hand, a guy that wears pink cannot escape the label ‘girly’, which somehow does not only mean ‘of a girl’ but also ‘weak’ and ‘superfluous’.
A men cannot afford to be weak and superfluous. A men who is not powerful and practical is less of a men, which unfortunately still translate with woman or with gay. That is why men are raised to dislike what is girly, that is also to distaste ‘weak’ colors like pink and don’t want to do anything to do with ‘superfluous’ shades. It’s no coincidence that during World War II homosexuals in concentration camps were badged with a pink triangle.
Hence, the answer to the question whether men’s mind is ‘color(name)blind’ is no. Men are not color(name)blind but their gender is. As a result they all suffer of a mental rejection for the color pink and all its shades. A rejection that than seems to extend to other color shades which are common in women’s wear, but not at all in men’s wear.
In the 21st century perhaps it is time to teach our children that no one is born with a color label and to be girly is not to be any bit less than a men. Finally, boys and girl will speak a language that is a little more the same. After all, no one is asking you to memorize HEX color codes.